Penn State offers new online master of professional studies degree in geodesign

July 08, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State has announced the creation of a master of professional studies (MPS) degree in geodesign, with applications now being accepted. A rapidly emerging discipline, geodesign incorporates concepts and methodologies from geography as well as architecture, landscape architecture and other sciences to creatively respond to social and environmental changes and challenges.

The MPS in geodesign is offered exclusively online through the World Campus and is intended for professionals who are able to participate principally on a part-time basis and at a distance. Students earn the degree by successfully completing a minimum of 35 credits of course work, including a supervised individual study project. The program’s goal is to provide practicing professionals with an advanced skill set in geodesign.

Geodesign’s approach to spatial problem solving requires synthesizing the best practices of environmental design with geographic knowledge and scientific data. Graduates from this program will be prepared to take leadership roles in addressing complex environmental design problems in settings ranging from urban design to conservation planning.

The new program, which is guided by an international advisory board of experts in the field, will complement but not duplicate existing graduate programs at Penn State. Although the master of professional studies degree (MPS) in geodesign, the professional master of landscape architecture (M.L.A.) degree and master of architecture (M.Arch) degree in the College of Arts and Architecture, and the master of geographic information systems (M.G.I.S.) degree in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences have common methods of discovery and problem-solving techniques, all are distinct.

The facilities available to the MPS students will be the same as for all Penn State World Campus students, including online access to the University Libraries and course space on ANGEL. An additional “facility,” unique to this program, is the immersive, virtual environment for conducting the online collaborative studio courses. In this unique immersive, virtual environment, students and faculty can meet online through a simple webpage portal. The immersive environment meeting space simulates large conference rooms, small meeting spaces and a lounge. It includes opportunities for audio/voice, sharing webcams as well as avatar interface, such as handshakes, laser pointing, etc. It also provides a means for sharing designs, mapping and other graphic communication.

The Department of Landscape Architecture and the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in partnership with the College of Arts and Architecture’s e-Learning Institute have developed the program and the courses. Kelleann Foster, Stuckeman School director, associate dean of the College of Arts and Architecture and associate professor of the department of landscape architecture, will serve as the program coordinator. Given her experience in her current roles as well as in her research expertise in community design and planning, Foster will provide leadership and guidance for the geodesign program.

“Geodesign is a collaborative process that brings together design-thinking with science, to help communities move forward with their change initiatives,” said Foster. “The program is rooted in a framework that has been used for decades. That process, coupled with enhanced technologies, provides students with a solid basis for how to help communities address their challenges, including knowing the key questions to ask, how to discover which data are most appropriate, and how to put together the right team of collaborators.”

Not only will Foster be facilitating the advising and learning for students in the program but she is teaching the upcoming massive open online course (MOOC) in August titled “Geodesign: Change Your World.” Penn State has partnered with Coursera to offer the course, which is open for registration and will run for five weeks starting in mid-August. A key goal of this free MOOC is to expose a broad group of global participants to the exciting possibilities inherent in geodesign. The course aims to showcase how people can to work together to make changes in their neighborhood, community, town, city or region.

Along with the MPS in geodesign and the MOOC, Penn State also offers an online graduate certificate in geodesign. The certificate was created to prepare professionals to help lead complex sustainable design and planning projects. The 14-credit certificate is a partnership with the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture in the College of Arts and Architecture and the Department of Geography in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and delivered online through the World Campus. The certificate courses comprise the first part of the MPS degree.

With these three new opportunities, Penn State is becoming a leading educational institution in the field of geodesign. By preparing individuals for the anticipated growth in design and planning professions, Penn State is providing students with the foundation to help communities and stakeholders respond to design challenges and the opportunity to become leaders in geodesign.

“(Students) will be able to start applying what they are learning right away,” added Foster.

For more information about the MPS in geodesign, visit

For information about the geodesign MOOC, visit

(Media Contacts)

Kelleann Foster, interim director of Stuckeman School, associate professor of landscape architecture

Last Updated July 08, 2014